Is Kevin Durant the best pure scorer in NBA history?

What does ‘pure’ scorer mean?

I think one thing that most casual basketball fans don’t fully understand is how scoring is related to efficiency. Anyone can actually averaged 30 PPG given enough shots a game. The trick to be an all time great scorer is how many shot attempts does it take for them to get to 30 PPG? Clearly, the less the shot attempts, the more impressive it is. Now obviously, post players have it easier since they are closer to the basket, so let’s leave them out for now and relegate it to perimeter players.

Amongst all time perimeter scorers (looking at their best scoring seasons) who was able to average the highest amount of PPG with the lowest FGA?

Kevin Durant – best season 32.0 PPG (2014) – 20.8 FGA

Michael Jordan – best season 37.1 PPG (1987) – 27.8 FGA

George Gervin – best season 33.1 PPG (1980) – 24.9 FGA

Jerry West – best season 31.3 PPG (1966) – 21.9 FGA

Oscar Robertson – best season 31.4 PPG (1964) – 22.0 FGA

Allen Iverson – best season 33.0 PPG (2006) – 25.3 FGA

Kobe Bryant – best season 35.4 PPG (2006) – 27.2 FGA

Tracy McGrady – best season 32.1 PPG (2003) – 24.2 FGA

Dwayne Wade – best season 30.2 PPG (2009) – 22.0 FGA

Lebron James – best season 31.4 PPG (2006) – 23.1 FGA

Steph Curry – best season 30.1 PPG (2016) – 20.2 FGA

Russell Westbrook – best season 31.6 PPG (2017) – 24.0 FGA

James Harden – best season 36.1 PPG (2019) – 24.5 FGA

Bernard King – best season 32.9 PPG (1985) – 23.7 FGA

Julius Erving – best season 31.9 PPG (1973) – 25.4 FGA

Dominique Wilkins – best season 30.3 PPG (1986) – 24.3 FGA

Alex English – best season 29.8 PPG (1986) – 23.3 FGA

Carmelo Anthony – best season 28.9 PPG (2007) – 22.4 FGA

Larry Bird – best season 29.9 PPG (1988) – 22 FGA

Adrian Dantley – best season 30.7 PPG (1983) – 18.3 FGA

Rick Barry – best season 35.6 PPG (1967) – 28.7 FGA

Elgin Baylor – best season 38.3 PPG (1962) – 33.1 FGA

So as you can see generally even amongst all time scorers, you need to take at least 20 FGA+ to average 29+ PPG, with the sole exception of the unusually efficient Adrian Dantley who needed only 18 shot attempts a game to average over 30 PPG! So that’s quite impressive.

But one could always make an argument that Dantley doesn’t really count since he plays more like a post player than a modern perimeter player. Amongst modern perimeter players, KD is definitely the most efficient scorer given he only needed 21 shot attempts to average 32 a game, which is quite impressive. Close behind I’d say are Curry needing only 20 shot attempts to average 30 PPG and Harden who needed only 24.5 shots to average a staggering 36 PPG!